1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II
Year of manufacture1933
Number of seats2
1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental Drophead Coupé
Coachwork by Park Ward
Registration no. BYV 923
Chassis no. 55MW
Engine no. XO25
In 1929 the arrival of the Rolls-Royce Phantom II set new standards for others to follow. It was a luxury motorcar specifically designed with the chauffeur driven passenger in mind. At the time, the only home produced rival to compare with the Phantom II was the Bentley 8-Litre, which was a faster vehicle but was thought to be far less chauffeur friendly, with considerably heavier steering and a gearbox that was more difficult to operate. During the development of the Phantom II, the majority of the long distance testing was carried out on the long straight roads surrounding Chateauroux in France. This fact, and Mr Henry Royce's many journeys between the South of England and the South of France, no doubt opened his eyes to the type of motoring not available upon England's narrow and winding roads.
The Phantom II Continental chassis was created with long-distance high-speed motoring in mind, the project being personally overseen by Henry Royce with assistance from Ivan Evernden. As conceived by Royce, including originally its style of coachwork, this new four-seater owner/driver model was to be more sporting and compact when compared to the standard long-wheelbase Phantom II. Only 281 such chassis were produced, which were differentiated from the standard offering by virtue of their thicker suspension springs and a 6" shorter chassis, of 144" wheelbase. The steering column was optionally lowered to what was known as the 'F' rake position, and the floor was lowered also to allow more rakish coachwork to be fitted.
Mechanically speaking, the Continental was fitted with a higher-ratio rear axle (12/41), which provided brisk acceleration and higher top speeds at lower revolutions. Royce had decided that the use of five thicker leaf springs as opposed to the standard 9 or 10 would save weight and allow for a smoother ride when the road surface was less than perfect. To assist control of the ride, additional shock absorbers were added to the standard hydraulic units, which were controllable from the driver's seat in the later examples. With lightweight coachwork being fitted, the final result was a motor car capable of carrying four people in great comfort at high speeds for many hours at a time over considerable distances. It is rightly considered by many to be one of the finest of pre-war Rolls-Royces.
Coachbuilders Park Ward had been approached by Rolls-Royce in 1922 and asked to produce a series of bodies for the 20hp model, which proved to be very popular and successful. However, following the great depression in the late 1920s, the roles were reversed and Park Ward contacted Rolls-Royce in search of financial support. This was granted in return for a 33% share of the company, with Rolls-Royce acquiring the remaining shares in 1939. The alliance forged during the 1930s between the two companies proved to be mutually beneficial. Park Ward were entrusted with producing bodies for a number of Rolls-Royce's experimental cars at this time, and in turn their showrooms on Conduit Street in Mayfair, West London always had an excellent selection of both Rolls-Royces and Bentleys on offer. Most of the Park Ward bodies fitted to the Phantom II Continental chassis were of the closed, compact, close-coupled, four-door saloon type; however, upon special request more stylish open bodies were produced, with that offered here - chassis number '55MW' - being one of Park Ward's most striking creations.
This particular motor car was completed in August of 1933 to the order of W W Worthington of Lichfield in Staffordshire. The flamboyant and striking boat-tail drophead coupé coachwork is fitted with twin side-mounted spare wheels and a hinged rear portion. The rear part of the body, or boat tail, is divided into two pieces that are released with the coach key. Once they are released, the two sections open on hinges to allow the hood to retract and be housed discreetly inside the body. According to early records, '55MW' was owned by W W Worthington for over 20 years, passing into the ownership of H F Gower of London in 1954. In May 1958, '55MW' left British shores when it was purchased by W B Fairclouth of Ohio, USA.
In 1977 the car was restored while in the ownership of Raymond Jefferson, also of Ohio, USA. It is understood that '55MW' remained in the United States until around 15 years ago when it returned to England. It has been mechanically maintained and serviced at Frank Dale & Stepsons' workshops over the past few years, undergoing extensive preparation and improvements. These included, but were not limited to, new carpets; sympathetic restoration to the existing leather interior; coachwork preparation and restoration; restored wire wheels; new tyres; and new polished wheel discs to suit James Crickmay's taste. Checked, prepared and tested by Frank Dale & Stepsons immediately prior to sale, the car is offered with sundry restoration invoices, a UK V5C registration document and fresh MoT certificate.
James was a great admirer of his long-term business partner Ivor Gordon's former Phantom II Continental and greatly enjoyed using '55MW' on occasions during the latter part of his life, firmly believing that the Phantom II Continental was the ultimate pre-war Rolls-Royce. This stylish motorcar is believed to be a unique creation by Park Ward on the Phantom II Continental chassis and is widely admired wherever it is driven.